Peers Call For Digital Markets Unit Legislation To Be Brought Forward

Peers have warned that the UK risks becoming a “rule taker rather than a rule maker” in the field of digital regulation unless the legislation to place the Digital Markets Unit on a statutory footing is brought forward as a matter of urgency.  

In a debate this afternoon on the Communications and Digital Committee’s report ‘Digital Regulation: Joined up and Accountable,’ Committee chair Baroness Stowell welcomed confirmation from the Minister that government would bring forward the draft legislation in the autumn.

But she warned that, as the policy solutions are “sat on the table,” the media sector was “crying out for” the DMU to be given the powers it needs to level the playing field between news publishers and the tech platforms.  

Baroness Stowell said: “Without the DMU being put on that statutory footing and without the new pro-competition regime we will not have a UK equivalent of the news media bargaining code, which has provided enormous benefit to the news industry in Australia.

“We are concerned as a committee that the UK is falling behind in this vital area of digital regulation particularly in the area of competition. We urge the Government to bring forward legislation to put the DMU on a statutory footing and give it the ex-ante powers it needs to address fundamental balances in the market.”

Baroness Stowell’s call for the legislation was supported by former DCMS Minister Lord Vaizey who said the powers were “much-needed.”

Separately this week, a new report published by DCMS warned that the structure of the digital advertising marketplace is currently depriving newspapers and other content providers of ad revenues.   

“Newspapers and other content providers may be negatively impacted by the effects that digital advertising has on their revenues,” the report from Economic Insight warned.

In the debate today, Baroness Stowell added: “The proposals to place the Digital Markets Unit within the CMA on a statutory footing have not been brought forward, despite multiple reviews and consultations over nearly five years pointing to this as the way forward.

“In the meantime, other jurisdictions are pulling ahead. The Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act have this month been adopted by the European Parliament. As a result, the UK risks becoming a rule taker rather than a rule maker in this area of digital regulation. To state the obvious, this means we could lose our influence in setting the agenda.”